Please don’t tell me we’re picking up where we left off. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against big houses in particular, but I had hoped we’d seen the end of over-building tiny residential lots to gain spaces far larger than they really needed to be. If there was a silver lining in the housing downturn, I thought it might be a shift toward smaller spaces that put a premium on creativity, great design, and organization.
Thankfully, I don’t think the census data points toward the whole nation deciding, once again, that bigger is better. Instead, I think we’re seeing the results of a very simple economic fact: When the economy is in the tank—which it undoubtedly was a few years ago, when 2012 completions were in the planning, permitting, and construction phases—the only people building houses were the “Go Big or Go Home” crowd whose members probably splurged for the extra bedroom or three. That’s why the census data is now showing a record high median home size. I hope, at least.
Tim Layton hints at several complaints against McMansions. First, the homes are simply too big to start with. They have more space than people really need. This is related to the idea that Americans often think “bigger is better” and don’t think about anything else. Instead, Americans could think more about the design of their homes rather than just focusing on more space. This sounds similar to Sarah Susanka’s arguments about her Not-So-Big House.
Additionally, this also gets at trends and cycles in housing. McMansion-type homes emerged in the 1980s with the term exploding in the early 2000s. But, the economic crisis led to smaller homes for several years. The question is what will come next. Layton does not want McMansions to return but he also notes that we may also be in new kind of market where the wealthy continue to purchase such homes while they don’t really extend to the larger housing market. Perhaps there will be a limited McMansion comeback? If so, there may be plenty of opportunity for builders and others to be more creative with smaller homes.